At some point in the last year or so, I stopped moving. Inertia carried me for a while, but I came to rest, and that was a dangerous thing to do. When I moved to New York, the idea was to hit the ground running, and keep moving until I had achieved what I wanted. What I wanted was a good job doing exciting work, enough money to afford to pay my bills and rent a decent apartment in a safe neighborhood of Brooklyn or Queens with my partner, to be able to afford to go to a concert or two per month, and sock a little away for later.
Inside of two months, I thought I'd achieved at least part of that. I found a good job doing interesting work, and the potential to make decent money. It was a trap, and as co-workers flitted away by will or by force, and the work became duller, I realized I'd made a mistake. The mistake wasn't taking the job. The mistake was thinking that taking the job would mean I could stop moving for a while. When I came to my senses, I had the good fortune to be pushed back into motion, and now I'm getting up to speed.
There's one good thing that came from not moving. I was able to discover a direction for my professional life that I enjoyed. Though the work environment, and that particular job were not what I wanted, a lot of what I did in my job excited me, from email newsletter design to content curation, to website QA testing. It was a lucky break to get some experience in a new field that I really enjoyed and build some skills that can help wherever I go. 1 During that year, and into my unemployment and new job, I've also found some direction to my writing.
Direction helps. Being in motion is a good plan, but it carries risks. Moving without any plan is just as dangerous as standing still. When you're moving on uncharted territory, you don't know what lurks ahead. A few years ago, I spent a whole year out of work because I had no concrete direction. The whole point of my job search was to Not Look Back, and not take another shitty telemarketing job ever again. So, I ran, panicked across the dangerous Serengeti for years, exposed and at risk. Had I not been convinced to take a Civil Service examination, I might never had the chance to catch my breath and get employed before the unemployment ran out.
I read a great piece in Fast Company about how to deal with anxiety.
When you tell yourself to “calm down” you have to make two hidden steps, moving both arousal and valence. But moving from anxiety to excitement is easier: your body can stay in an amped-up physiological state, but you re-appraise your anxiety as excitement.
— Feeling Anxious? Why Trying To “Keep Calm” Is A Terrible Idea | Fast Company
Anxiety is akin to moving without a direction, while excitement is knowing the direction to go. When you're anxious, the only thing you want is to stop being anxious. To get some place, any place, that's safe. When you're excited, you have a goal and you want to achieve it. You have direction. Goals and direction, however, should be flexible. If you're focused on one specific thing above all else, you miss out on other great opportunities that can make your life more interesting. It also gives you an option for when plans change and you've been cut off from the direction you wanted to go.
- During my job hunt, multiple people have told me that my experience and skill set are “unique.” I've taken it as the compliment I assume it was intended to be. ↩